Managing to be even more ridiculous than its predecessor, Kingsman: The Golden Circle sadly lacks the surprise factor of Matthew Vaughn’s 2014 breath of fresh (sometimes wonderfully foul) air. Unable to repeat the apprenticeship aspect of The Secret Service, its sequel kicks off with formerly-wayward youth Eggsy now a fully-fledged Kingsman agent, and attempts to fill the void left by a relatable underdog tale with overstuffed trans-Atlantic adventure. Uniformly enjoyable viewing, if seldom truly thrilling, the gags come at a clip, Vaughn’s action sequences remain distinctively staged, and callbacks to the prior installment earn solid chuckles.
Once again employing an unconventional supervillain, both in terms of their motives being borderline rational, and in the casting of unlikely actors, The Golden Circle unfortunately doesn’t give smiling baddie Julianne Moore nearly enough to do, certainly not when it comes to stepping into the shoes of Samuel L. Jackson. Most notably, there’s insufficient screen time spent opposite the film’s heroes, but then the film is already busy enough (across two hours and 20 minutes) in drastically expanding Kingsman mythology with a host of American characters and catching up on rivalries and friendships from the previous installment.
At times, The Golden Circle veers closer to Austin Powers territory – not meant as a compliment – than its predecessor, thanks to silliness and a certain celeb cameo, but like the film’s gags that don’t hit, or relatively unengaging narrative, it may stumble but never entirely loses its footing. There’s always another quip or scrap around the corner, as well as unexpected subtleties amongst the OTT – how Eggsy’s romantic relationship clashes with the sort of seduction super-spies are known to engage in, for instance. Judged against a typical big budget sequel, The Golden Circle is excellent – but by the standards of the first film, it’s merely enjoyable.